SALT LAKE CITY — By wearing masks and social distancing, we may be avoiding COVID-19, but chances are many people have been unable to dodge one of its serious side effects — social isolation.
No one is immune, but there are some things you can do about it.
Isolation isn't just about feeling lonely.
Intermountain Healthcare psychologist Denise Lash said it's linked to anxiety and depression and has been shown to have an impact on physical health.
It can lead some to question their place in the world. "(Social contact) gives you a sense of, kind of where you fit in the world," Lash said.
She said there are some things we can do to counteract the effects of isolation.
First, acknowledge that being apart from people is hard.
Lash also suggested making an effort to schedule activities that are enjoyable and meaningful. "So that could be shoveling the sidewalk for a neighbor, it could be dropping a plant off on a friend's porch," she said.
Lash also recommended making time for exercise and maybe writing in a gratitude journal.
Jessica Blank has another way to combat isolation: Show and Tell.
Due to a chronic medical condition, Blank, who lives alone, spends most of her time by herself at home. For instance, she drives to the grocery store but doesn't go in. The groceries are delivered to her car.
"I mean, I like my me-time, but this was a little too much me-time," Blank said. It doesn't mean she's lonely.
Using Zoom, she visits with family members and she attends and hosts virtual Meetups—such as games nights, trivia games, and a Show and Tell group she just started.
During a recent online Show and Tell meetup, Blank and a small group of participants showed off an old government report recycled into art, a handmade dress, and a vinyl recording of a conspiracy theory. The evening evolved into a lively discussion of topics ranging from books and movies to the Columbia House Record Club and life's milestones.
Lash said there isn't scientific evidence yet to say if an online meeting is as helpful as an in-person one, but Blank has no doubt virtual connections have helped her a lot.
"I feel like Zoom has saved me from really being miserable," she said.